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how do you keep something like bowling cool? sometimes success means striking the right chord with consumers by reinventing your business. that's coming up next on "your business."
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hi there, everyone, i'm j.j. ramberg, and welcome to "your business," where we give you tip and advice it heto help your business grow. reinventing the game. probably one of the best ways to describe who could be happening at your bowl alley. bowling a strike or in some cases, particularly mine, a gutter ball with those snazzy shoes is still part of the fun. there's a renewed focus on upscaling the experience. ♪ [ cheers ] >> everyone likes to bowl. >> people come here for the bowling. they stick around. they have a great time. >> people always want to have fun. it doesn't matter it f there's a recession or booming economy. >> it's an industry that has been spared the worst of the
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economic downturn. it's largely because the game isn't just about bowling a strike or a spare anymore. >> i considered the customer experience to be the most important marketing aspect of the business. >> that's been the focus for tom shannon. the ceo of strike holdings, since he bought new york's bowl more in 1997. he's a firm believer that the days of the league play, broken machinery, and fake wood panelling are long gone. now he want his customers to get the best service that money can buy. >> i just said, look, the bowling works. now let's wrap it in something that makes sense to people now. >> bowling is just part of a much larger customer service equation. >> the complete experience is you can eat, you can drink. the customer self-selects. we don't require that they order food or anything else, they want it. we offer it. we took a core activity that people love, and we made it nice. service intensive, a good design. great food and beverage offerings, and that's the model.
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pretty simple. >> the bowl more staff manages to juggle protest parties, corporate events, and plenty of people who just like to bowl a few games. shannon does his best to make sure his customers get top-notch service. >> all these little operating details. getting the food out at the time that the party wanted it reliably. you know, and then of course the taste and quality of the food. and all of that stuff. [ applause ] >> everyone likes it. that's what works. >> the success of bowl more is undeniable. it's still the world's highest grossing bowling alley. that popularity has been a key factor in shannon's decision to further expand his brand. >> bowling, it's a sport, it's fun, yet challenging. it's satisfying. and it's social. you all sit together. it's communal. you eat, you drink, you watch each other do it. it just works. and we've marvelled at how bowling is unlike any other activity. >> across the river in brooklyn, one of the industry's newest
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editions is giving something else a try. while there's plenty of food and fun at brooklyn bowl, there's also rock 'n' roll. >> we add a lane, hang out with your friends, turn around, watch a concert. >> peter shapiro and business partner charlie ryan used to own a new york club called wetlands. that experience came in handy when deciding to turn their bowling alley into a concert venue. >> we wanted live music and bowling. the idea that you could do this in one space is something no one has tried before. >> while most customers are there to bowl, integrating the music has presented a unique challenge. the trick has been to showcase acts that will attract a variety of crowds. >> something on wednesday for, you know, a hip-hop show. thursday, we'll do a jam band thing. friday, it will be more electronic or funk or soul. and you mix it up. >> that's the cumbersome part, difficult part. you have to promote every night differently because it's going to draw different people. >> despite their successful track record, there were concerns about the pair's plan.
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friends and family had their doubts, especially since they were opening their doors in the middle of a recession. >> when we first told them the idea, they're like that's not going to work. you can't have bowling and music at the same time. >> people thought we might be crazy or ahead of the curve especially in terms of locating in a place where there's really no walk-by traffic. >> in other to keep people coming, they knew they had to provide fantastic service. partnering with a local brewery and a city restaurant group was just the start. the rest is all about making customers feel welcome. >> you're going to find people who really want to engage with them and are solicitous of what they need. the thing that's really, really great is trying to keep the customer service at a high level, keep everybody focused on that. >> and the customers seem to notice. at brooklyn bowl and at bowl more, they just keep coming. so much so that the downturn has translated into an upswing for both of these businesses. >> at the end of the day, going bowling isn't very expensive. you don't need financing to do this. everyone can do it.
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and it's local. you don't have to travel to do it. you put all this together, it's a pretty resilient business model. >> everything old can be new again, especially if you know how to keep things fresh and relevant. let's go to this week's board of directors. reinvention could be jerry silverman's middle name. he is the founder and ceo of the company corporate turnaround. and joining us again is investment adviser phil town, author of "the new york times" best-selling book "payback time." great to see you. >> you, too. >> they do great marketing because even from this piece, it made me think, i've got to go bowling. i don't know the last time i went bowling. >> i love it. it's such a good deal. >> it is, right? the whole thing about the downturn is this is the perfect time to change it up, right? as they said, it's not expensive to go bowling. >> it's not the old bowling alley. it used to be a funky place or all teens. now the one we went to up in michigan, i've seen my kids and
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they said let's go bowl. we ended up there eight hours, part of a karaoke thing. the kids were singing and food and the bar -- >> going on all over the place. is there anything to be wary of? now they've got the extra expense for the -- for instance the brooklyn bowl. the extra expense of having bands and promoting it. what i thought of hard was what he said about how we've to proposal it differently every night. >> when you used to go for bowling, you were there for bowling and maybe get a cheese burger and soda. they're making so much more on the food and beverage, especially the drinks. there's a high markup in drinks. they're able to supply that money to the band and bring in more people, as a result. >> i think this is an entrepreneur's dream kind of a bein business. it's very dependent on your skill level and feeling it out. i think that's where the scary part would be. just like the restaurant business, just like a bar business. you better get it right. you better know who your people are who are coming, and cater to that group. so up in michigan, it was karaoke. where these guys are, it ain't karaoke, it's a rock band. >> is there any wary that it becomes trendy? these guys would run a trendy
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club that may have lost its luster. >> i think this is an anti-trendy thing. honestly, where we were, it was like such a range of people. it was like kids in -- in college all the way up to people in their 70s. just the most anti-trendy police i've ever seen. >> huh. >> i think that they probably after a certain hour, don't let the kids in. i think it's 21 and over after a certain time period. you don't have the kids running around. and then it becomes a social thing. so it's not just bowling, it's bowling and a social thing. >> it's so smart right there. all these different pockets of revenue now instead of just bowling. >> it's bowling. i mean, that -- i'm not talking something really trendy here, right? this is bowling. >> it's the whole happening. and it takes you backment someone my age -- i grew one black light bulbs and -- the ultraviolet lights. and that's what they have here, and they make it fun. it's also a step back in time for old people like myself. >> if we're looking at building businesses in this kind of market, this is a real good model. this is a simple local business that has got big, long roots.
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you don't have to reinvent anything. >> you don't have to invest that much. you already have the space. maybe you have to build it out a little bit. they partnered with people so they've got those investors in essence. it seems really smart to me also. >> like it. >> me, too. sometimes changes in the marketplace force an owner to reinvent his business. that was the case with one manufacturer who lost his biggest clients to overseas competition. he went through some rough times, but in the end, he was happy he was forced to change. ♪ soap and water hang my heart on the line ♪ >> dan still shudders when he remembers the phone call that almost toppled his company. >> it was a shock, if you can imagine, with the phone going what just happened. i remember it being that. i remember turning to my wife and saying, you know, what are we going to do. >> what happened was his soap manufacturing company, shugar soapworks, lost its largest customer to a china-based competitor. >> we were realizing we were not
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being competitive in the marketplace. our hotel client were saying, your prices are too high. ♪ >> ron fernandez was shugar's broker. he bought soap from shugar soapworks and, in turn, sold it to some of las vegas' biggest hotels. but that wasn't enough to save the partnership. when fernandez learned he could source the same products he was getting from shugar for 25% to 30% less overseas. with the loss of the vegas business, shugar soapworks' revenue plunged from $5 million a year to less than half of that. >> within one fell swoop, it really dropped significantly. >> things were not looking good for the company. but shugar wasn't ready to close the doors just yet. >> instead of sitting around saying, oh, poor me, why did i lose that -- could i have done something better -- no. what we have to look for is what's in the future. what's next here and the year after. ♪
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>> shu dw a shugar took a hard the market and decided he needed to reinvent his company. he knew the hotels were easily able to replace his soap because his brand didn't mean anything to their customers. he launched a new product line under his own brand name, venezia. it sells at big lots, odd lots, and t.j. maxx stores across the country. he developed relationships creating soap line for trader joe's and the 99-cent store. >> china showed me that i cannot compete with them packagingwise. it must be on a productivity level of how good my product is, how good my soap is, how good a quality the product is. >> he also reviewed his costs and started cutting. laying off 3/4 of his staff. it's 1:00 in the afternoon, and we're looking at your factory, and it is empty. quiet. all the machines are off. why don't you run it all day? >> we run until 1:00 for a specific reason. 1 -- the main reason is for
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electricity. we are allowed a lower rate since we don't take electricity after 1:00. ♪ >> after 18 months in the red, shugar soapworks is profitable again. while he expects to more bumps in the road ahead, shugar feels confident that because he survived this he can handle almost anything. >> i believe i walked through the fire and i made it to the other side. you know, i believe it made me stronger. really, i'm glad it happened to me. i'm glad i'm able to sit here and talk to with a smile on my face saying we made it. we made it. as we've seen to stay competitive in this challenging economic market, many entrepreneurs are being forced to have a backup plan. and when a company need to change on a dime, so do its employees. our next guest has tips to help your business stay reinvention ready. pamela mitchell is the founder
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and ceo of the reinvention institute. she's also the author of the book "the ten laws of career reinvention: essential survival skills for any economy." i love the name of your company, the reinvention institute. it's fantastic. >> thank you. >> so one of the things you say is that people need to create an annual reinvention plan which for a company that, let's say, is doing well, might be hard to sit back and say why do i have to do this. >> right. but the thing about it is having a reinvention plan is like having insurance for your business. like with shugar, one day he got a phone call, half his business disappeared. if every year he sat down and said what would i do if my primary business went away, what steps would i take, he would have actually been prepared and been able to launch something right off the bat. >> you know what's also -- doing that might give you the focus to say what do i like about my business weather and traffic do i -- it's another way of taking a hard look at your business. >> and thinking about what areas should you be going into.
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coming at it from a different angle. or closing down. >> then start with a mini reinvention. >> yeah. the thing is that, you know, we're all busy as business people. you can't be trying to do something wholesale right off the bat. what you want to do is look at where the little areas are that you can test your ideas. seeing how they go. and then begin putting it out there. so it's about how to land the groundwork before dow something wholesale -- before you do something wholesale. >> that's the idea. the idea of totally reinventing may be overwhelming. a way to test the ground. >> you don't need another project on your plate like that. >> whatever. create a reinvention board. board of people or board on the wall? >> no, board of people. i like the idea of board on the wall. you know, create a reinvention vision board. there you go. here's where i want to head. the thing is that reinvention is about cross polinating ideas. so it's not just your traditional ad zvisory board. you want people out the industry to help you look at your business in a different way, talk about different ways to move into different areas and combine things. >> do you have anyone from your company on the board, or is it just you and your outside
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people? >> no, you should have key staffers, as well. the thing is that when the company needs to reinvent itself, so do the people. so you really want to get your key staffers in the mode of career reinvention. how to we move ourselves and the company forward. >> right. that moves into your next point which is ban excuses. from yourself, from your employees, from -- >> exactly. you know, reinvention is very much of a challenge. and so we're resistent to change. we like to do the things that we've done, and especially we're busy so we don't want to do it. oh, i don't have time. you've got to ban these excuses. as i said, reinvention is insurance. it's important. >> you'll have time when your company's out of business for that to happen. >> exactly. >> then give it time. nothing happens overnight. >> that's exactly it. i mean, the thing is is that it's preparation and opportunity. and you can control your preparation, but you don't control when opportunity shows up. you got to wait -- you got to make sure that you have enough time to let something play itself out. don't try to reinvent yourself when you're in a crisis mode like shugar was. by that point, you're scared.
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so you want to actually let it run. >> and do you feel that most people come to you and your institute when they're in crisis mode or -- >> yes. they do. yeah, they do. and then they've got all the pressure of trying to earn money. you know, where should my businessing heading, all of these things. it's much more difficult to reinvent yourself when you're in that mode as opposed to thinking of it on an annual basis and putting mini reinventions in place. >> is it more of a big invention for your company or a series of small things? >> i think the myth of reinvention is that it is a wholesale change. in actuality, reinvention is about changing and tweaking your company to move with the market. no, it's not a big wholesale change. you want to look for the little things that can open up to something major down the road. >> i think that great and a great thing for people to remember. again, as i said, so it's not so overwhelming. so it's toage. >> -- it's doable. >> thank you. great advice. >> thank you. when we come back we'll find out what businesses venture capitalists are putting your money into.
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and we'll have your business questions. including how a small business owner with limited resources should handle an employee's maternity leave. [trumpet playing "reveille" throughout]
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reviving the economy means reinventing the way we do business. here's to the owners showing us the way. [trumpet playing "reveille" fades to silence] are you interested in having the "your business" team give your business a makeover? if so, send us an e-mail. the address is yourbusiness@msnbc.com. tell us a little something about your company, what challenges you're facing, and what you've done to try and turn your business around. the address, again, is yourbusiness@msnbc.com. venture capital funding certainly hasn't been immune to the down economy, but there are some bright spots. here are the five hottest sectors for attracting investments courtesy of forbes.com. number five on the list,
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electronics. vc's are always looking for that one piece of electronics that can be marketed to the masses. two, mobile and telecommunications. the startup applications are in high demand. number three on the list, software. the demand for innovative, non-internet software remains huge. number two, internet-based ventures. social networking and online game regular two particularly hot fields. and the hottest sector for vc funding at the moment is health care. medicine, surgical devices, and electronic monitors are all attracting attention. it's time now to answer some of your business questions. phil and jerry are back with us once again. the first one comes from a public speaking coach. >> have a web site, have facebook, i have linkedin. i am wondering when you know it's time to hire a public relations firm to grow your
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business and when you decide to do that, if you should decide to do that, what do you look for in a p.r. firm? >> that's interesting because we always talk about how all these social networking terms are -- places are great because they're free. they're not free. they take a lot of time. so should she be hiring someone to do this stuff for her? >> first, she wants ton weather should she do it. -- want to know when show should do it. i say last. make sure you can afford a p.r. firm, most of the people that have p.r. firms, they're bigger companies. they can afford to spend money on those things. as a startup entrepreneur, i don't know that i'd go right to a p.r. firm. >> yeah. i think you got to have something to say. you've got to have something that these people can work with. p.r. people will be happy to take your money and pound the same old bricks. doesn't mean you're going to get anything good. what you got to do is you've got to probably do most of the work yourself to kind of set it up. in fact, most of the people in my business -- i dot doo a lot of public speaking. they to most their own p.r. setups and have a p.r. person follow up on it. >> the other problem when you're
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a small company is you may not get the bang for your buck. it's hard to know that in the beginning when you're beginning when you're hiring thaem. >> if she should hire a pr firm, go to someone that specializes in the industry, someone that has done what she needs to do. >> that's a key. they definitely specialize. >> frank wrote in saying -- i just found out one of my employees is pregnant. we don't have a maternity policy. i can't afford for her to be out for a long time and pay her but i want to be fair. what should i do? it's interesting, for small companies, most states, there's no maternity policy. >> what there is between an employee and employer is an exchange of value. it's just a matter of what the value is of this employee. and they're very low-paid employee gone for four months, no, they doesn't have to continue that. if they're a valuable employee, gone for a month, yeah, you have to hang on to them.
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but it's a value exchange zblu you ha have to create a value policy. you can't have the same policy for the receptionist as your right hand person. >> i don't think he's obligated to do something. i think he is obligated or at least should keep her job open for if she comes back. another thing that he could possibly do is have her work from home if she wants to do flex time. you can work from anywhere with a computer, depending on what business is. >> i disagree with you. look, that's one of the beauties of running a small business as opposed to this month knolith y have to make policies for. >> what i'm getting from this, it's a hard answer and you have to look at your own company and figure out what you can do without for how long, the value of your employee, in essence.
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>> i agree with phil as an entrepreneur, you should do what you want to do. unfortunately, that's not the way the law works. >> a founder of a cosmetics line. >> when you're a growing company using a celebrity viable or affordable to get your product and your brand known and recognized. >> it's affordable if it's free somehow. somehow you have a friend who is good friends with somebody. >> make sure they're using your product. that's one key thing, if they are using your product. >> how do you get to them? >> charity auctions are a phenomenal way to get to a celebrity. find out what charities are going on in your area, which ones are auctioning, put your product in as something they'll auction off and meet some people. >> if it's free, it's great. as a start-up company if you use a celebrity, it's expensive. if you're using a celebrity's name and that's the name of the line, that's one thing on
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otherwise, it's too expensive. >> it's hard to get to these people. the next question, about the ownership of ideas. a viewer writes if i have a unique idea for a website, how do i patent or copyright the idea? we get the question all the time. >> a website can't be patented unless you have some type of technology that goes with the wb site. you can copy the words on the page and do that in the easiest way to do it, look for the u.s. patent and trademark office, and they have all of the forms right there. i wouldn't do that personally if i were looking to copyright something. i'd go it a patent attorney because they have to do a lot of research to make sure that what you're filing makes sense and it's going to be approved in the end. >> jerry's right about the patent. you can trademark your stuff, your web name, do that. i kind of disagree with you about going to the government place because they're government places, and i basically hate them all. what i suggest go to legal zoom, they have a section that's just
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patents, trademarks and copyright. they have everything right there for a low amount of money. >> we talk about this a lot on the show and people have different view as to whether you should incur the time and expense to go through the patent process. that's something you have to ask yourself notice beginning because it's not where something you sign up and get the patent tomorrow. >> all you do is get right to go to court and fight. >> that's why you see pat ending all the time. >> could be patent pending for years. access to funding. we just started our business a year ago in real estate. how do you get cred knit financing without using our own personal credit. >> you don't want to use your personal cred it. >> if you're a entrepreneur, good look, particularly in this market, not using personal credit pep donald trump is using his personal credit. so you're going to use your personal credit. think about doing a limited partnership, bring in a capital from outside investors, have
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them on the line for their capital, one way to get yourself off the hook. another thing you did do is use owner financing instead of going through a bank, you might be able to get owner financing, particularly in this market. >> this question bothered me because he's claiming to be a real estate investment firm with no financing. you're not in the real estate investment business until you have financing backing you. you're putting the cart before the horse. >> interesting. thank you so much for all of the questions. very helpful. we want to tell you if you have a question for our experts, go to our website. openforum.com/yourbusiness. there, just hit the ask the show link to submit a question for our panel. again, the website is openforum.com/yourbusiness or if e-mail us questions or comments. address is yourbusiness@msnbc.com. now that we've gotten advice from experts let's get survival
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tips from small business owners just like you. >> most of our successes come from social marketing, facebook, twitter, that type of thing. we have learned a lot about search engine optimumization and the top of google is the biggest pay-off for us. >> surround yourself with experts. i don't know anything about taxes, i don't know anything about creating a website, but what i did is i went out and a found the best cpa and the best graphics designer i could found, i went out and found the best web designer and said, this is what i want, now, make me look like a rock star. >> trust your own intuition when it comes to the business decision. only you really know how to use that information and when to use that expertise in the way it's going to benefit your business and your clients. >> is your company's home page up to speed? if not, our website of the week
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can help you. pingdom.com. you can monitor how quickly different parts of your page are loading and receive instant alerts if something goes wrong. a free trial version is available for testing one page. to learn about today's show click on our website. it's openforum.com/yourbusiness. you'll fine all of today's segments and web exclusive content with more mfx informatio grow your business. a life-long rocker who after year of discrimination in the music business decided to create a line of guitars just for girls. >> there's all of these players out there having the same struggles i've had in all of the girl bands i've ever been in. it was my very first spark of, yeah, this is going to matter. this is what's going to happen. find out how her daisy rock brand is thriving in a market
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all its own. i'm j.y ramberg. remember, we make your business our business. [trumpet playing "reveille" throughout] reviving the economy means

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Your Business
MSNBC September 5, 2010 7:30am-8:00am EDT

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TOPIC FREQUENCY Us 7, Brooklyn 4, Shugar 3, Facebook 2, Shannon 2, Michigan 2, New York 2, Jerry 2, Phil Town 1, Ron Fernandez 1, Tom Shannon 1, J.j. Ramberg 1, Vc 1, Venezia 1, Google 1, Peter Shapiro 1, T.j. Maxx 1, Donald Trump 1, Shugar Soapworks 1, U.s. 1
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